Stone Eating Bacteria
Name: Jen T.
What is the name of the bacterium that eats stone?
I do not know any bacterium with that reputation.
I believe that you are probably referring to a class of bacteria known as
"lithotrophs", which translates literally as "rock-eating". These bacteria
are generally capable of utilizing inorganic compounds as their primary
energy source. The inorganic compounds can be, & often are, the mineral
components of actual rocks, hence their name. Consequently, these bacteria
represent a major environmental force contributing to the weathering of
rocks in nature. There are a huge number of species in this category, but
some of the most renown are the sulfur-oxidizing bacteria, such as
Thiobacillus & Sulfolobus. They convert reduced sulfur, which can be a
components of rocks, into sulfuric acid, further accelerating the weathering
process. The following web page on "The Role of Microorganisms in Acid Rock
Drainage" from InfoMine, Inc. nicely describes their contribution in more
And finally, this web page, entitled "Lithotrophic Bacteria-Rock Eaters" from
the University of Wisconsin, describes some of the general characteristics of
this interesting bacterial class, although it does not focus on those which
would typically be responsible for the dissolution, or weathering, of
minerals in rocks:
Thanks for the good question,
Jeff Buzby, Ph.D.
Children's Hospital of Orange County
Division of Educational Programs
Argonne National Laboratory
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Update: June 2012